Baumholder soldier remembered at memorial
BAUMHOLDER, Germany — Staff Sgt. Jose M. Caraballo Pietri died as he lived: out front, leading his troops.
Caraballo, 32, was readying his squad for a foot patrol in Afghanistan’s Badghis province when about five insurgents fired at him and his soldiers. Caraballo was shot in the leg; he later succumbed to his injuries. But not one of his soldiers was injured.
“It was no surprise to me when I found out how he was killed,” said Staff Sgt. William Hudnell, who trained with Caraballo as part of C Battery, 1st Battalion, 84th Field Artillery Regiment, 170th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. “Even when we went to Graf and Hohenfels, and it was all blank rounds, he was always that way.”
On Wednesday, soldiers and civilians filled Baumholder’s chapel and mourned Caraballo’s death, the third for the brigade since it deployed in February.
A native of Yauco, Puerto Rico, Caraballo served two enlistments in the Army, joining in 1996 and then again in 2007 after a four-year hiatus. Before his current tour to Afghanistan, he had served one tour in Iraq as an ammunition team chief.
Caraballo was short, standing just above 5 feet, but his workouts were long and punishing, consisting of marathonlike runs that were interrupted by rounds of pushups and sit-ups.
“He made morning PT sessions hell,” wrote C Battery’s commander Capt. Timothy McCarthy. “He did this to harden his soldiers, and he was happy to let anyone else share in the pain. I’ve personally been run to the ground by him on several occasions.”
In a eulogy, Pfc. Edward Liebi, who was part of Caraballo’s platoon, spoke about these arduous training sessions, but also how Caraballo made the days in Afghanistan easier with his “entertaining dances and sayings.”
Liebi said he would never forget a piece of advice that Carballo imparted to him after a long training run.
“You made a good first impression because of the way you pushed yourself to the end,” Caraballo told him. “Don’t let that impression ever change, you got that?”
But it is Caraballo’s calm leadership that will be missed by his fellow soldiers in Afghanistan.
“It’s going to be hard not having him there,” said Hudnell.
Hudnell leaves Thursday for Afghanistan, where he is slated to take over Caraballo’s squad.